Gathering Theme: Day Schools and Day Scholars

GATHERING THEME

Day Schools and Day Scholars

Tricia Logan

Opening common to all gatherings

The ‘Indian’ day schools in Canada are considered part of the entire system of residential school systems. The term ‘residential school’ often encompasses a number of different kinds of schools including: boarding, industrial, mission and day school, hostels, residences, TB sanatoriums and hospitals. While the legal definitions are often limiting, the full experience of the ‘residential school system’ includes a number of different kinds of schools operated by the federal government, provincial government(s) and various religious denominations. Day scholars also attended residential schools and had similar experiences but since they did not stay overnight they were also not eligible for compensation.

While majority of day schools were not ‘officially’ recognized in the Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement (IRSSA), the day school system was very much part of the whole system of residential schools. Most importantly, many former students and Survivors who attended day schools had very similar or identical kinds of day-to-day and long-term experiences as Survivors who attended boarding-style residential schools.

Smaller ‘mission’ or day schools were operated across Canada and typically co-administered by either Protestant or Catholic churches, the provincial/territorial governments or in some cases, the federal government. Student attendance at day schools would often rely on the location of the school, denomination of the school and often the identity of the home community or of the children and parents. Often, Métis children attended the day schools in large numbers since many considered that Métis were the ‘responsibility’ of provincial governments. Métis often slipped into a jurisdictional gap between government administrations and their school attendance was often defined by these gaps.

Students did not stay overnight at the day schools, many were able to go home at the end of the school day, but often the conditions at the school and treatment of the children, by clergy and teachers was similar or identical to that at the residential schools. In other day schools, many children were billeted into homes or stayed at a hostel or residence while they attended the day school. In many large boarding-style residential schools ‘day scholars’ would go home at the end of the day as well but still faced the same treatment, day-to-day as the rest of the students.

These experiences vary but they are often recognized in the broad experience of the ‘residential school experience’ in Canada. Of note though, is the legal battle many day school students and day scholars still carry on with, today. The 2005 Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement (IRSSA) does not ‘officially’ recognize the experience of a majority of day school attendees. So, while many students faced the same treatment as students who attended boarding-residential schools, the Settlement Agreement did not recognize their experiences and many carry on with legal battles, today. Schedule ‘E’ of the IRSSA lists the ‘officially’ recognized schools and in order for any former attendees of residential or day schools to apply for the Common Experience Payment (CEP) or the Independent Assessment Process (IAP), their school had to be listed on the ‘official’ list. If their school did not appear, they could apply for an appeal and potentially their school could be added to the list or they would be denied compensation under the IRSSA.

Currently, Survivors and former day school attendees are still fighting legal battles for abuses they endured at the day schools and for recognition of their experiences. In individual and class action suits, day school Survivors carry on with important work for recognition and to attain the same or similar support as all Survivors of the entire residential school system.

For more information on legal action and class action suits for day scholars, please see:

http://justicefordayscholars.com/

Chartrand, Larry, Tricia Logan and Judy Daniels. 2006. Métis History and Experience and Residential Schools in Canada. Ottawa: Aboriginal Healing Foundation

 

Closing common to all gatherings

Gathering Theme: Métis Experience at Residential Schools

GATHERING THEME

Métis Experience at Residential Schools

Tricia Logan

Opening common to all gatherings

Métis children were included in the residential school system and system of ‘Indian’ day schools from the time that the schools first opened, until the closure of the last school in 1996. Along with First Nations and Inuit students, Métis attended the schools forcibly and in later years of the schools’ administration, also attended voluntarily. While many Métis Survivors share stories of similar school experiences to First Nations and Inuit students, there were often conditions around the admission of Métis students and their treatment by staff and fellow students that made their experiences quite distinct.

In the residential school era, Métis were not considered ‘Indians’ legally, under Canada’s Indian Act. They were considered the responsibility of the provincial governments and often education and health support for Métis fell into a jurisdictional gap between these levels of government. In large boarding-style residential schools, Métis were often considered ‘outsiders’ and their attendance at the schools depended on a number of different variables. At the end of the nineteenth century, Métis were cast as ‘rebellious’ and were often considered to be ‘the dispossessed’. For most of the first half of the twentieth century Métis were marginalized politically, economically and socially. Their treatment in Canadian society often mirrored their treatment in the schools and whether or not they would be taken to residential schools, mission schools, day schools, provincial schools or no schools at all.

Early in the administration of the boarding-style residential schools in Canada, the department of Indian Affairs circulated a document to schools about the ‘Admission of Halfbreeds’ into their schools. Métis or ‘Halfbreeds’ were to be considered in three classes, by the schools. Their class would determine whether or not they were to be admitted to schools. In the early years of the residential schools’ administration (1890-1920), correspondence from the Department of Indian Affairs would often cite the following ‘classes’ for Halfbreeds:

Halfbreeds may be grouped into three fairly well-defined classes.

1. Those who live, in varying degrees of conditions, the ordinary settled life of the country.

2. Those who live, in varying degrees, the Indian mode of life.

3. Those who – and they form the most unfortunate class in the community – are the illegitimate offspring of Indian women, and of whom white men are not the begetters.

Those of the first class make no claim upon the Government of the Dominion for

the education of their children; nor has any such claim as far as the knowledge of the undersigned goes been made on their behalf. The third class are entitled to participate in the benefits of the Indian schools; and in so far as the afore quoted … [w]hen Indian Treaties are made the illegitimate children … of Indian treaty women were excluded and payment of their annuity money for them on their behalf was refused. That policy appears to have been adopted to discourage illegitimate breeding. As to the second class of Halfbreed the undersigned at once admit that they present a difficult educational problem, but the very difficulty effects a strong reason against drawing a hard and fast line such as it drawn. This second class of Halfbreeds maybe divided into three groups:

1. Those who live apart from Indians but follow somewhat Indian mode of life

2. Those who live in the vicinity of Indian Reserves

3. [Those who] [l]ive on the Reserves

(PAM, RG10, vol. 6039, file 160-1, part 1)

Many Métis still attended outside of this class system for various reasons. Occasionally, skin colour would influence whether or not a student looked more or less ‘Indian’ to the administrators of the school. Additionally, many Métis families were Catholic families and they would be admitted into residential schools or day schools according to the denomination of the schools operating the school. Admission to schools often appeared to be ad-hoc, or later on, taken on a case-by-case basis.

Social, political and economic factors also influenced whether or not school officials, RCMP or clergy would take Métis children from a specific family or community to a residential school. Métis fell into a jurisdictional gap and lived hidden lives in many parts of Canada. Métis leader Malcolm Norris once said about the Métis and education:

I have always understood that it was against the law not to send the children to school, and Inspectors are maintained for that very purpose, but unfortunately our people have been discriminated against, and to such an extent, that even though they may pay taxes, no steps are taken by the authorities to see that their children are sent to school, apparently the Half-breed is not worth caring about. (TRC, 2016, p. 26)

Métis political resistance grew in the later half of the twentieth century and their campaigns advocated strongly for better education for Métis communities. They often cited these government and church failings between the systems that left Métis falling through the cracks.

Métis experiences at residential school

In a school system built originally as a ‘solution’ to the ‘Indian Problem’ and operated by Indian Affairs, Métis were outside of federal responsibility and had been socially and politically relegated to the margins of Canadian society. Whether century. Since they sometimes attended residential schools without official federal funding, they were not provided with food, access to washrooms or school uniforms like the rest of the students. In schools already notorious for their legacies of neglect and abuse, excluding students based on ‘class’ structure and government-constructed identities created added pressures on children at the schools. Whether

that move was literal or metaphorical, Métis existed in the margins of society and the road allowances 1of non-Indigenous communities for several decades of the 20th A brief addition to the seven volumes of the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation of Canada is a history of Métis experiences at residential school. One of the stories included in the report, from a Métis student describes bullying by other students:

When attending the Pine Creek residential school in Manitoba, Raphael Ironstand, a boy of mixed descent who had been raised in a First Nations community, was bullied by Cree students. The Crees surrounded me, staring at me with hatred in their eyes, as again they called me ‘Monias,’ while telling me the school was for Indians only. I tried to tell them I was not a Monias, which I now knew meant white man, but a real Indian. That triggered their attack, in unison. I was kicked, punched, bitten, and my hair was pulled out by the roots. My clothes were also shredded, but the Crees suddenly disappeared, leaving me lying on the ground, bleeding and bruised. Although the sisters had showed little sympathy at the time, Ironstand had a very special memory of a nun who showed him kindness. I poured out my story to this understanding nun about my confused feelings, being a non-person with white skin, even though I was an Indian. At that she put her arm around me and assured me that I was a very important person to her, which immediately raised my self-esteem. It was the first time since I came to the school that anyone had touched me without punishing or beating me. As she ushered me out of the door, she stopped and gave me a hug, which made me feel warm all over. Such shows of affection were rare. Even if they developed close friendships, most students felt unloved. (TRC, 2016, p. 53)

Métis Survivors often described feeling bullied by fellow students, members of staff and their communities when they returned home from residential school. In some places, Métis were often cast as ‘worse off than Indians’ or because they were Halfbreeds, they were considered by others to be less than either one of their ‘halves’.

Inside Métis communities, the myths and stereotypes about the Métis damaged many, but also fuelled centuries of resistance and resurgence. Métis carried on with their political, legal and social structures, even hidden and often while they were being sternly discriminated against. Métis languages also came under threat during residential school eras and through ongoing colonialism in Canada. Métis languages and cultures have experienced resurgence and Métis often lead movements towards ongoing resistance and reconciliation in Canada. Métis, First Nations and Inuit across Canada survived these colonial structures and school systems. Their times in schools included struggles but they undoubtedly included strength, as well.

Métis were not officially included in the Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement (IRSSA) and many feel left out in this contemporary era of apology, compensation and reconciliation. Many attended day schools and schools that were not included in the official settlement agreement. Métis communities still face barriers placed up by government definitions and imposed identities. Métis communities will face the barriers as they always have though, and continue to re-define, maintain their own identities and rely on the unquestionable strength of their communities.

For additional stories about Métis experiences, or for more information please see:

Canada’s Residential Schools: The Métis Experience, Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, 2016

http://nctr.ca/assets/reports/Final%20Reports/Volume_3_M%C3%A9tis_English_Web.pdf

Métis History and Experience and Residential Schools, Larry Chartrand, Tricia Logan and Judy Daniels, 2006

http://www.ahf.ca/downloads/metiseweb.pdf

References

Provincial Archives of Manitoba, (PAM, RG10, vol. 6039, file 160-1, part 1)

Barkwell, Lawrence J., Leah Dorian and D.R. Préfontaine. 1999. Resources for Métis researchers. Winnipeg and Saskatoon: Louis Riel Institute of the Manitoba Métis Federation and Gabriel Dumont Institute of Native Studies and Applied Research.

Barkwell, Lawrence J., Leah Dorian and D.R. Préfontaine (eds.) 2001. Métis Legacy: A Métis Historiography and Annotated Bibliography. Winnipeg, MB: Pemmican Publications Inc.

Daniels, Judy D. 2003. Ancestral Pain: Métis Memories of Residential School Project. Edmonton, AB: Métis Nation of Alberta.

Chartrand, Larry, Tricia Logan and Judy Daniels. 2006. Métis History and Experience and Residential Schools in Canada. Ottawa: Aboriginal Healing Foundation.Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. 2016. Canada’s Residential Schools: The Métis Experience. Kingston & Montreal: McGill-Queen’s Press.

1 “The Road Allowance People were the Métis, who, without a homeland, were forced to build homes and communities on the crown land known as “road allowance” land set aside for a highway. They lived a precarious existence, welcome neither in white settlements nor allowed to live on Treaty land. The Crown land, of course, could be appropriated or developed at any time; people were often burned out of their homes or otherwise forced to move.” “The Road Allowance People,” by Carolyn Pogue, United Church Observer, May, 2013.

Gathering Theme: Métis Identity and Nationhood

GATHERING THEME

Métis Identity and Nationhood

Author: Chuck Bourgeois

Métis identity and Nationhood are often discussed together, but are best understood as two closely related, yet separate and distinct concepts. Métis identity refers to the ways in which a person identifies as Métis, and the practices, beliefs, and history that make up this identity. Métis identity is an intensely personal experience, and as such, the way it is understood can vary greatly from one person to the next. Métis Nationhood, on the other hand, is the result of very specific historical events, and in modern times, is the basis for the political relationship certain Métis organizations share with the federal and provincial governments in Canada. While there are differing views on the subject, this discussion will focus on the Red River Métis who have continuously occupied their traditional territory on the prairies, and who developed a distinct language, culture, and political structure which rose to prominence during the 19th century.

Métis Nationhood

The story of the Métis Nation predates the confederation of Canada by at least a century. Throughout what are now known as the Prairie Provinces, early European settlers intermarried with women from primarily Cree, Ojibway, and Nakota groups as the fur trade spread throughout the continent. Many of the children from these unions learned the cultures of both parents, and as a result, they became very active in the fur trade as interpreters, voyageurs, buffalo hunters, and trading post factors. A number of significant historical events led Métis people to develop a robust political awareness, and to understand themselves as a Nation rather than simply as a ‘cultural group’. During the Battle of Seven Oaks in 1816, Métis fighters were the first to fly the infinity flag that is still used as a national symbol today. The Métis were also members of an all-Indigenous political alliance known as the Iron Confederacy which was active in the mid to late 1800s on the central plains. The Iron Confederacy included Cree, Nakota, Assiniboine and other Indigenous groups who negotiated treaties among themselves, and fought together to defend their land and resources which were increasingly threatened by European settlement. The Métis, however, are best known for the events which led to the Red River Resistance in 1869 and the Battle of Batoche in 1885. During these conflicts, the Métis established a provisional government, elected Louis Riel as their representative into the House of Commons, negotiated Manitoba into Confederation, and consistently refused to be governed by the new Canadian Federal Government and its laws.

The history of the Métis Nation, and all its conflicts, victories and adventures spans centuries, and is the subject of much debate and study. It cannot be denied, however, that Métis people organized themselves politically long before Canada became a country. Their governance style and political structure evolved during the great buffalo hunts of the nineteenth century. At their peak, these hunts consisted of over a thousand Red River carts, included hunters and families from several different Indigenous groups, and were strictly regulated by distinct laws. At the time, there was no other political organization that even came close to bringing together such a large and diverse group in such a cohesive way. Before each hunt, the hunters elected a chief, several captains, and discussed their travel route until a consensus was reached. Upon their return, the chief and captains would step down from their positions, and the whole process would begin anew at the outset of each hunt. This allowed for a very fluid, and democratic approach to leadership and governance. Indeed, political organizing was an integral part of Métis culture long before confederation.

During the Red River Resistance, the Métis negotiated with the federal government – not as a special interest group, or a as Canadian citizens – but as a distinct Nation, with its own representative body, political structure, and territory. Today, the Métis continue to hold a unique space in Canadian politics, and have been successful in having their rights recognized through a number of landmark court cases.

There are currently five provincial, and one national political organization which represent the interests of Métis people. They are; the Métis Nation of Ontario, the Manitoba Métis Federation, the Métis Nation – Saskatchewan, the Métis Nation of Alberta and the Métis Nation British Columbia. Each of these is represented at the national level by the Métis National Council. Membership requirements are determined by each organization, but generally follow similar protocols. The Manitoba Métis Federation (MMF), for example, requires individuals to self-identify as Métis, to show an ancestral connection to an historic Métis community, and to be accepted by the contemporary Manitoba Métis Community. Citizens of the Manitoba Métis Federation benefit from training and employment programs, harvesting rights, funding for education and small businesses, and other services managed by the MMF.

One of main differences between historic and contemporary expressions of

Métis Nationhood is that while Métis people historically fought for independence from the Canadian state, today, the Métis Nation exists as a part of Canada, and many Métis people consider themselves to be Canadian citizens.

Métis Identity

Contemporary Métis identity isn’t so easily defined, or understood. Seeking membership in one of the provincial representative organizations is an easy first step for many individuals, but while this provides a political identity, it does little for those of us who seek a deeper understanding of what it means to be a proud Métis person in today’s world.

Our ancestors benefitted from a vibrant and intensely unique culture. Among other characteristics, their clothes, their skill at buffalo hunting, their beading patterns, and the languages they spoke, gave early Métis people a deep sense of pride, and a distinct identity. However, the Métis experienced severe hardships and discrimination during the colonization of Canada and well into the twentieth century. Generations grew up either ashamed of being Métis, or completely unaware of their cultural heritage. Some would argue that Métis still have not fully recovered from the many injustices they endured. In 1885, Louis Riel prophesized that his people would sleep for a hundred years, but would then be reawakened by our artists, and begin to feel pride again. In many ways, his prophecy has come to pass. But our journey has not been easy.

Many people understand the term Métis as a racial characteristic; a way of describing people of mixed ancestry. Unfortunately, however, contemporary Métis people in Canada often have difficulty getting out from under this outdated racial stereotype. This is due, in part, to longstanding federal policies which have sought to discourage the Métis from asserting rights, or defending land claims as Indigenous peoples. A Métis person is often asked; “which one of your parents is Indigenous”, or “how much Indian are you? half?, a quarter?, an eighth?” Questions like these set up two points of reference: white or European on one end; and Indigenous on the other. Métis identity becomes an awkward space that is stuck somewhere in between these two points. This obsession with race – and the associated stigmas of skin color and racial ‘purity’ – is a pathology we have inherited from our colonial past. It was not that long ago that the Métis were simply known as Half-Breeds. The mixed race stereotype automatically suggests that someone is ‘less than’, not fully one or the other. What many Métis people today are now realizing, is that their racial make-up doesn’t tell them much about who they are. Métis identity simply cannot be measured through blood quantum, or by counting how many Indigenous relatives we have in our family trees. These issues lead to some very complex questions. If we no longer live in the cultural environment our ancestors lived in, and if our distinct histories and political affiliations are only small parts of what makes us who we are; then what, exactly, makes a person Métis?

To some, a Métis person is someone who displays certain cultural traits – they wear sashes, dance the Red River Jig, play the fiddle, and participate in events like the Festival du Voyageur. But these are only external symbols representative of much deeper experiences. An Elder once said that trying to understand Métis identity is like trying to catch a moving train. Métis people in Canada today are constantly recreating their identities in new and powerful ways.

Many of us are rebuilding relationships with our First Nations relatives, and acknowledging the destructive impact colonization has had on our families. Others are building vibrant connections to their ancestry by learning an Indigenous language, or by participating in traditional ceremonies. Genealogical research also serves as a strong foundation for building Métis identity. It is not uncommon to discover that one or several of our direct ancestors participated in the great buffalo hunts, fought with Louis Riel, or founded one of the many Métis communities still in existence today. The challenge is to find creative ways to express our traditional understandings and worldviews in modern contexts. As contemporary Métis people, we must do more than inherit the legacy of our diverse and complex history; we must also contribute to this legacy by constantly renewing and re-visioning our identities.

In this sense, it is best not to think of Métis identity as a fixed set of characteristics as laid out by political or legal definitions. Métis people are here today because of the strength, and resolve of our ancestors who fought to protect their way of life for their grandchildren, and great grandchildren. In many ways, we too are now engaged in a struggle. Métis identity must be defined by the people who live by it, not by the organizations who represent us, or the colonies that have sprung up around us. This is what we, in turn, will pass on to our children, to ensure that they too will be proud to call themselves Métis for generations to come.

 

References

Adams, H. (1999). Tortured people: the politics of colonization. Penticton, BC: Theytus Books Ltd.

 

Andersen, C. (2015). “Métis”: race, recognition, and the struggle for indigenous peoplehood. Vancouver: UBC Press.

Ens, G. J., & Sawchuk, J. (2016). From new peoples to new nations aspects of Métis history and identity from the eighteenth to the twenty-first centuries. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

 

Fiola, C. (2015). Rekindling the sacred fire: Métis ancestry and Anishinaabe spirituality. Winnipeg, Manitoba: University of Manitoba Press.

Vowel, C. (2016). Indigenous writes: a guide to First Nations, Métis, and Inuit issues in Canada. Winnipeg: HighWater Press.

 

  • Manitoba Métis Federation:

http://www.mmf.mb.ca/

  • Métis National Council :

http://www.metisnation.ca/

 

Gathering Theme: New Canadians and Indigenous Peoples

GATHERING THEME
New Canadians and Indigenous Peoples

  1. Opening common to all gatherings
  1. Presentation of the theme
  1. The future of Winnipeg rests on our ability to build authentic and informed relationships between two key communities: newcomers to Canada and Indigenous community members. We all have the responsibility to nurture the relationships between Indigenous, settlers and newcomers in the spirit and intent of the treaties. A lasting impact of colonization is the creation of a stratified society that pits those most marginalized against one another, forcing them to compete for place, belonging and resources. We need to look for ways to come together and build bridges.

In research conducted by Immigration Partnership Winnipeg (IPW) in 2014, 88 Indigenous and newcomer participants were asked ‘What are the possibilities of establishing community interactions and relationships that promote harmonious coexistence between the diverse newcomers and Aboriginal peoples?”

  • Young people noted a passive, but occasionally aggressive relationships between both communities. They would co-exist in a school environment, but tended to exclude each other from peer groups. They admitted to having pre-existing opinions of each other, but that these were largely what they heard from their parents and on social media.
  • Adult participants reflected many similar perceptions of each other. However, they had fewer opportunities to meet and work with individuals from the other community. Some of the respondents expressed strong views on why there was distance between the communities – competition for housing, jobs and services.
  • Elders and community leaders were the most understanding of the social situation being experienced by both communities and were thus more prone to suggesting how the different communities could be encouraged to engage and get to know each other.

A consistent theme running through the discussions was how both groups held negative perceptions of the other that they acknowledged were not accurate. Within the stereotypes each group held were also some sympathy for each other, as they acknowledged the struggles and difficulties they were experiencing coming to Winnipeg. This led to observations that as minorities, the two communities actually had a lot in common and shared experiences.

Through its experiences doing cross-cultural work the team at the Immigrant & Refugee Community Organization of Manitoba – IRCOM pulled together some important information below on the commonalities & differences between newcomer and Indigenous communities and also on the TRC recommendations related to newcomers.

One key difference we need to emphasize at the outset is that Indigenous peoples are the only group originating on this continent and the rest of us are settlers.

On the other hand, we identified four themes of common ground between the Indigenous and immigrant/refugee population.

These include:

  1. Common cultural traditions & rituals

    1. Naming self in relation to family, ancestors, place (Sudanese tradition; Ojibwe tradition)

    2. Babywearing

    3. Drumming and dance

    4. Celebration of seasons & relationship to land and loss of that relationship to the land (forced migration/colonization)

    5. Celebration of coming of age

    6. Fasting, piercing, tattooing

    7. Hair

    8. Identity as tribal, Indigenous

    9. Beading/sewing/weaving baskets/ etc.

    10. Food/feasting

    11. Gift giving cultures (give-away; gift-giving as a tradition)

    12. Storytelling and emphasis on oral culture/tradition

    13. Sometimes a lack of interest in culture among younger generations

    14. Strong and abiding belief in many cultures in the spiritual / unseen

    15. Sense of time

  1. Common colonization and systemic oppression

    1. Christian missionaries/schools/residential schools. While we need to acknowledge the damage done by the religious institution who ran the Indian Residential Schools in Canada, we need not be critical when Indigenous parents in Canada decide to send their kids to “Christian Schools” today. The big difference these days, from the IRS era, is that Indigenous parents and students have a choice as to where they want to go to school.

    2. Police, racial profiling and oppression

    3. Similar types of stigma – ‘don’t pay taxes’ and ‘bogus refugee/queue jumper/handouts’

    4. Child & Family Services and relationship to systems and institutions in general- learned to fear

    5. Colonization of names of places and languages- e.g., Mantou-ahbee becomes Manitoba. Mumbai becomes Bombay (and a reclaiming of these names)

    6. Having cultural names and ‘Christian names” or westernized names

  1. Common family breakdown/disruption/migration

    1. Separation of children from parents/families (due to war/Lost Boys/Girls of Sudan; residential schools)

    2. Newcomers to the country/ Indigenous newcomers to the city. Culture shock, displacement from community, language, suddenly being a minority group, racism, etc.

  1. Common family & community pratices

    1. Role of elders more formalized and respected

    2. Extended family / kinship networks / adoption across extended family as a norm

    3. Various challenges to preserving culture and language (and differences too – many newcomer communities strong in language and cultural preservation- but 2nd generation often lose their language) (Indigenous people faced purposive eradication)

    4. Gender roles; including the extent of equality of genders in various societies

TRC Recommendations related to Newcomers:

Recommendation 93: We call upon the federal government, in collaboration with the national Aboriginal organizations, to revise the information kit for newcomers to Canada and its citizenship test to reflect a more inclusive history of the diverse Aboriginal peoples of Canada, including information about the Treaties and history of residential schools.

Commentary: What the Canadian Citizenship guide currently says about Indigenous peoples is very limited and provides singular and militaristic view of Canada. One option of what the guide could say instead taken from http://peoplescitguide.ca/wp-content/uploads/guide_en.pdf:

Aboriginal Peoples “For many First Nations, the nation-state of Canada is an imposition, and often an unwelcome one. Indigenous people have lived in the territories now called Canada for tens of thousands of years. Since the Canadian state has existed, it has been at best ambivalent and at worst explicitly hostile to First Nations, determined to challenge Indigenous peoples and their claims to the land and its resources. Canada is built on First Nations land and its wealth is derived from the resources contained within it. First Nations never surrendered these lands or these resources. In fact they do not feel they own the land to surrender it. Through treaties they agreed to share the land. The reserves that were laid out to keep First Nations contained so that they would not disrupt this exploitation are hopelessly small, fragments of those traditional territories that sustained the people. The Canadian state defined them as “Indians” and enacted laws that governed choices of marriage, where they could live, prohibiting from them the right to own land, to vote and to enter the professions.

Recommendation 94: We call upon the Government of Canada to replace the Oath of Citizenship with the following:

I swear (or affirm) that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada, Her Heirs and Successors, and that I will faithfully observe the laws of Canada including Treaties with Indigenous Peoples, and fulfill my duties as a Canadian citizen

Commentary: There is controversy regarding the oath as it is as it hearkens to our colonial roots which are not relevant to today’s Canada for many. This change would ensure that Treaty Rights area included in the Citizenship Oath.

Possible discussion questions or topics for consideration:

  • What are some of the common strengths/values/practices that Indigenous peoples and new Canadians share?
  • What are some of the common obstacles/barriers/struggles that Indigenous peoples and new Canadians share?
  • How do we build awareness of Indigenous and newcomer realities and make sure we learn from the past?
  • How can Indigenous peoples and new Canadians be allies and support one another?
  • How do we move beyond the ‘one off’ events and meetings (short term activities) toward the development of long-term, sustainable and meaningful relationships between Indigenous peoples and new Canadians?
  • Who should take the lead?
  • What is the balance between promoting multiculturalism and nationalism (e.g., pride in being Canadian) with the parallel acknowledgement of the oppression of First Nations, the diminishing of their unique and special status under rubric of “multiculturalism.”?

  • How do we reconcile our vision of Canada – as progressive, safe, etc. while many of our Indigenous communities are struggling with poverty, lack of access to clean water, displacement due to development and a legacy of colonization (ie: over-represented in the child welfare and justice systems)?

  1. Sharing Circle.
  1. Determination of the theme for the next meeting and the reader.
  1. Resources:

7. Closing common to all gatherings

Gathering Theme: Dispelling the Myths About Indigenous People

Gathering Theme

Dispelling the Myths About Indigenous People

Opening common to all gatherings

Presentation of the theme

(The majority of this document comes from a publication  “Aboriginal Workforce Participation Initiative,” Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, 1998, with updates from Statistics Canada. The publication is very consistent with other similar documents, such as the 2012 publication by TD Bank called “Debunking 10 myths surrounding Canada’s Aboriginal population.”)

Many misconceptions about Aboriginal peoples in Canada are based on stereotyping and lack of information. These misconceptions have serious consequences and are often at the root of racism and discrimination that Aboriginal peoples continue to experience today. For employers, ongoing misconceptions about Aboriginal peoples can adversely impact the effectiveness of their Aboriginal workforce participation initiatives.

Dispelling the myths is one step towards building relationships based on mutual respect and trust. Here are 10 common myths about Aboriginal peoples, along with factual information that will help to dispel them.

  1. MYTH: All Aboriginal peoples are the same.

The Facts:

  • The Aboriginal population is very diverse:
  • The Aboriginal population is composed of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples – each with a different history, culture and society.
  • Over 50 Aboriginal languages are spoken in Canada today.
  • Aboriginal peoples live in many different parts of Canada -in geographically diverse locations such as urban centres, rural communities and remote locations. As of 2016, half of Status Indians live in urban areas.

 

  1. MYTH: Aboriginal peoples have always had the same rights as others in Canada.

The Facts:

  • Only recently have Aboriginal peoples begun to obtain the same rights as other people in Canada:
  • Registered First Nations peoples obtained the right to vote in 1960.
  • In light of the 1973 Calder case and the 1997 Delgamuukw case, Aboriginal title equals communal ownership of land (excluding individual ownership). Throughout history, Aboriginal peoples were denied certain rights afforded other people in Canada:
  • In 1880, an amendment to the Indian Act provided for automatic enfranchisement (loss of status) of any Indian who earned a university degree or any Indian woman who married a non-Indian or an unregistered Indian. Enfranchisement was not officially repealed until 1985.
  • In 1884, an amendment to the Indian Act instituted prison sentences for anyone participating in potlatch, tawartawa dance and other rituals (traditional Aboriginal ceremonies).

 

  1. MYTH: Aboriginal peoples are responsible for their current situation.

The Facts: Many factors have contributed to the situation of Aboriginal peoples in Canada:

  • Prior to European contact, Aboriginal societies were strong and self-sufficient.
  • While Aboriginal peoples were never conquered, the process of colonization resulted in loss of control.
  • Policies of displacement and assimilation (e.g., residential schools and banning of potlatch) deprived Aboriginal peoples of their traditional, social, economic and political powers.
  • Aboriginal peoples are now re-establishing control through a process of healing, negotiation and partnership.

  1. MYTH: Aboriginal peoples have a lot of money.

The Facts: Aboriginal individuals have lower incomes and higher dependency rates than others in Canada:

  • In 2006, the median income for Aboriginal peoples was $18,962—30% lower than the $27,097 median income for the rest of Canadians. The difference of $8,135 that existed in 2006, however, was marginally smaller than the difference of $9,045 in 2001 or $9,428 in 1996. While income disparity between Aboriginal peoples and the rest of Canadians narrowed slightly between 1996 and 2006, at this rate it would take 63 years for the gap to be erased.
  • Although Aboriginal incomes rise with increased education, even highly educated Aboriginal people still face a considerable income gap relative to non-Aboriginal people.
  • Land claim monies foster community economic growth on a long-term basis, however their impact on individual income is minimal. Given the size of the difference between Aboriginal average income and national average income, it will take a long time to eliminate this

  1. MYTH: Aboriginal peoples have everything paid for; they don’t have to pay for their housing, education or medical expenses.

The Facts: Certain services are paid for. What these are, and who they are for, is defined by statute or agreement:

  • Registered First Nations peoples have certain services paid for. These are part of the federal government’s statutory obligations as outlined in the Indian Act.
  • When a registered First Nations person leaves the community, access to these rights are limited. And as the federal government cuts spending, items admissible under these statutory obligations also diminish.
  • The Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, now called Indigenous and Northern Affairs, provides certain services to the Inuit through its Indian and Inuit programs. The department funds services for these communities that Canadians receive from their provincial or municipal governments. These services include education, social services and community infrastructure.
  • Although until recently the federal government recognized no statutory obligation to Métis people, it provided core funding to Métis representative organizations to advocate and negotiate, with federal and provincial governments, programs and policies that affect its membership (i.e., socio-economic status, health and cultural identity). Some Métis groups also have agreements with provincial governments to provide services (nature of agreements and services vary). In Daniels v. Canada (2016), the Supreme Court of Canada declared that Métis (and non-status Indians) must be considered “Indians” in section 91(24) of the Constitution and thereby fall under federal jurisdiction. These cases did not include remedial action but they open the doors for Métis rights and land claims.
  • Outside of the items defined by statute and agreement, Aboriginal peoples pay their own expenses.

 

  1. MYTH: Aboriginal peoples do not pay taxes.

The Facts: Tax exemption occurs only in confined cases. Aboriginal peoples pay significant  amounts of tax every year:

  • Inuit and Métis people always pay taxes.
  • First Nations peoples without status, and registered First Nations peoples living off-reserve, pay taxes like the rest of the country.
  • Registered First Nations peoples working off-reserve pay income tax, regardless of where they reside (even on-reserve).
  • Administrative costs incurred by registered First Nations peoples claiming tax exemption for off-reserve purchases under $500 discourage requests for reimbursement. In these cases, most registered First Nations peoples opt to pay the sales tax.
  • Registered First Nations peoples are sometimes exempted from paying taxes. Tax exemption is part of the federal government’s statutory obligation as outlined in the Indian Act.

 

  1. MYTH: Aboriginal peoples cannot interface with, or adapt to, life in the mainstream.

The Facts: Aboriginal peoples have extensive and effective relationships with the rest of   Canadian society:

  • Aboriginal peoples attend, and graduate from, a wide range of colleges and universities.
  • Aboriginal peoples work in all parts of the economy – many in large mainstream industries like mining, forestry, banking, construction, etc.
  • Aboriginal businesses form joint ventures (and other business arrangements) with non-Aboriginal businesses.
  • Of all self-employed Aboriginal people in Canada, women make up 37% and even 51% of Aboriginal small– and medium-sized enterprises are owned in whole or in part by Aboriginal women;

 

  1. MYTH: Aboriginal peoples do not have a good work ethic; they have high rates of turnover and absenteeism.

The Facts: Aboriginal peoples are skilled, productive and reliable employees who are valued by their employers:

  • Aboriginal peoples participate extensively in work-oriented education and training programs.
  • Aboriginal peoples work in all parts of the economy and in many different occupations.
  • Aboriginal peoples are valued as stable, reliable employees who contribute in many ways to corporate performance.
  • Flexible work arrangements may be established to allow Aboriginal peoples to pursue their traditional ways, the timing of which differs from statutory holidays.

 

  1. MYTH: There are no qualified Aboriginal peoples to hire.

The Facts: Aboriginal peoples have the education, skills and expertise required for jobs in all economic sectors:

  • Almost one-half (48.4%) of Aboriginal people had a postsecondary qualification in 2011, including 14.4% with a trades certificate, 20.6% with a college diploma, 3.5% with a university certificate or diploma below the bachelor level,and 9.8% with a university degree. (In comparison, almost two-thirds (64.7%) of the non-Aboriginal population aged 25 to 64 had a postsecondary qualification in 2011.)
  • Aboriginal peoples work in many occupations. They are obtaining qualifications and experience in business/ finance/administration, management, social sciences/ education, natural and applied sciences, and health.
  • Many services are available to help employers find qualified Aboriginal employees.

 

  1. MYTH: Hiring Aboriginal peoples is a form of reverse discrimination.

The Facts: Hiring Aboriginal peoples is part of a strategy to develop a representative workforce:

  • A representative workforce strategy means that all groups are represented – those who are part of the majority population as well as those who are in minorities—reflecting the make-up of the country or of the population surrounding work areas.
  • Measures to increase Aboriginal workforce participation are not designed to favour one group over another. They are designed to increase access to employment vacancies and promote equitable opportunity for all groups.
  • Provisions of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (as well as provincial and territorial statutes) permit employers to take special measures to achieve the equitable representation of Aboriginal peoples and other groups in the workforce.

Discussion, passing the talking stick

Closing common to all gatherings   

Gathering Theme: Entrepreneurship Among Indigenous Peoples

GATHERING THEME
Entrepreneurship Among Indigenous Peoples

Opening common to all gatherings

Presentation of the theme

This theme is based entirely on excerpts from a powerful and very informative book by Shaun Loney with Will Braun, entitled: An Army of Problem Solvers, Reconciliation and the Solutions Economy.  (2016). These quotes are with the permission of the authors.

My introduction to the solutions economy came through my work with several social enterprises. This book arises very directly from those experiences.

I am currently at Aki Energy, which I co-founded, along with Darcy Wood, Kate Taylor and Sam Murdock, in 2013. Based in Winnipeg, Aki serves as something of a social enterprise incubator, offering various supports and services for First Nations wanting to start their own social enterprises. We help with ideas, training, and the various steps required for setting up and operating a social enterprise. In most cases, we do not own the businesses – we just support and facilitate them. Our chief executive officer is Darcy Wood, the former chief of the Garden Hill First Nation.

In our first three years, Aki and our partners have installed $6 million of energy efficient geothermal energy systems in 350 homes on four First Nations in Manitoba. Each venture is a non-profit social enterprise with local employees doing the actual work. Eight crews of trained workers have already installed 213 kilometres of piping loop for geothermal systems that will cut utility bills by $15 million over the next 20 years. Peguis First Nation and the Fisher River Cree Nation have their own geothermal installation operations – the two largest in western Canada. Not only is this work paid for out of the utility bill reductions, it also creates sustainable, local employment. We intend to install $100 million worth of geothermal energy in the next decade in Manitoba alone.

Prior to Aki, in 2006, I was on the team that co-founded BUILD (Building Urban Industries for Local Employment), a Winnipeg social enterprise that trains mostly people who have been in prison to do energy-saving and water-saving retrofits where low-income families live.

It was my introduction into the world of social enterprise, and I am very proud to say that we were awarded Scotia Bank’s EcoLiving Green Business of the Year in 2011, Manitoba Apprenticeship’s Employer of the Year in 2013, and recipient of the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce’s Spirit Award in 2016.

 

MEECHIM

In 2014 my co-workers and I at Aki Energy began discussions with the Garden Hill First Nation about setting up a community-based healthy food venture. Out of our talks, Meechim Inc. arose. Meechim is an Oji-Cree word for food. Meechim now runs both a healthy food market and a commercial-sized farm. Meechim is a registered non-profit corporation with a board selected by the community in addition to one member appointed by Chief and Council.

We had asked the First Nation to clear some land thinking a few acres would suffice to get us going. We were amazed to see that they cleared 5.3 hectares (13 acres), similar in size to a large urban shopping mall. It will take some time for the  venture to be profitable and to plant the whole area but in year one a fruit orchard was planted, a range of vegetables were  grown (potatoes, carrots, beans, peas, and squash), and fencing was erected for 1,000 broiler chickens, laying hens,  and turkeys. In 2015, Meechim’s first year of operation, ten people were employed for the growing season.

The Meechim healthy food market – another branch of the venture – sells fruit, veggies, meat, healthy cooked meals, and locally caught fish. The market is held at the local TV station with live Oji Cree language broadcast of what is available.  It may be the world’s only healthy food shopping channel. Some of the healthy food sold is from the Meechim farm while some is shipped in and sold at rates lower than the Northern Store.

Meechim is also selling healthy food out of the canteen at the arena. It offers fruit, veggies, and Garden Hill chicken soup in place of standard canteen fare. With the help of an innovative foundation called Canadian Feed the Children, we are also working with five classes from the local school. As part of the curriculum, students are gardening and taking the produce home to their families.

I wouldn’t want to leave the impression that all this is easy. Changing the status quo can offer its challenges, and we are all learning along the way. But we began to see the benefits immediately.

‘The goals of Meechim are to improve health in the community,   provide employment, and displace many flown-in foods that can be farmed locally. Of course it is also increases overall community capacity to start other economic ventures.

Again, this is not a government program or a charitable endeavour. It is a business. But it is related to government policy, and governments can create conditions that facilitate the re-emergence of the local economy. This is key. A good idea is not enough if government policies get in the way. The problem solvers and the problems must be connected.

What factors influence diet in a place like Garden Hill? Country foods – a common term for foods hunted, fished, or gathered in the wild – were of course the basis of Indigenous diets not that long ago. They still form a small part of the diet in many places, such as Garden Hill, but have largely been replaced by modern grocery store offerings. How has this happened? How did the traditional food system and economy give way to modern dependence on grocery supply? The answer is not simple, but let’s start by going back to the question of why there are no gardens in a place called Garden Hill (and before long we will return to the economics of diabetes).

Like the Indigenous population in general, Garden Hill has been beat up by a string of government policies and practices.  Treaty 5, which Indigenous signatories understood to be a commitment to live together in a good way, was treated by the Crown as a way to get Indigenous people out of the way of white colonial expansion. The Indian Act placed restrictions on cultural practices and commerce, treating Indigenous people in a highly paternalistic fashion.

According to article 32 (1) of the Indian act:

A transaction of any kind whereby a band, or a member thereof’ purports to sell, barter, exchange, give or otherwise dispose of cattle, or other animals, grain or hay, where wild or cultivate, or root crops or plants or their products from a reserve.., to a person other than a member of that band, is void unless the superintendent approves the transaction in writing.

Stan McKay told me that his parents sold one of their five cows so Stan would have some pocket money when he was away. But this was done only with permission of the Indian Agent and at a cut-rate price. They had to go through him because it was illegal for Indigenous people to sell anything off-reserve without the permission of the Great White  Mother’s agent. While not enforced in recent years, this restriction was only repealed in 2014.

The Indian Act is only one example of a government policy that inhibits Indigenous people from solving economic problems. There are many others. The Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) funds new-home construction on First Nations. Their policy is generally to keep the upfront costs to a minimum, and extras are not usually allowed. For example a new home can be hooked up to geothermal technology for an additional $5,000 (installation in a new home is cheaper than retrofitting an existing home), a move that would cut energy bills by about $1,800 a year. But CMHC won’t allow it because they see the $5,000 as a cost rather than an investment. They can’t afford to save money.

There is a way forward. The term “solutions economy’ or “solutions sector” as it is sometimes called, is somewhat general and flexible. Different people define it in different ways. My own definition will come most clearly through the numerous concrete examples I provide in this book, but I’ll offer a more concise definition here as well. The solutions economy is essentially about solving social and environmental problems by using market forces.

Within the solutions economy, challenges like climate change, high incarceration and re-incarceration rates, persistent poverty, and ballooning healthcare costs are addressed not by demanding more government spending, offering charity, or expecting free enterprise to solve all ills. It seeks out transformative, common-sense, real-world solutions from outside the box – or, as the Elders tell me, “from inside the circle.”

The solutions economy criss-crosses the ideological spectrum, at times confounding both sides, more often winning them both over. It seeks collaboration, not polarization of sides. It is not an ideology, which is to say it is not about arguing that one economic school of thought is superior or that one political philosophy is the answer. It is not about being right in some abstract, theoretical way. It is about innovative, on-the-ground solutions.

——

First Nations reconciliation has to include rebuilding local economies. In this excerpt we have included only a few examples. Shaun Loney”s book  describes many more of these successes.

Discussion: Passing of the talking stick

Closing common to all gatherings

 

Gathering Theme: Métis People of Canada

Author: Dr. Chantal Fiola

GATHERING THEME

Métis People of Canada

Introduction common to all gatherings

Métis Origins

The Métis are a post-contact Indigenous people whose birth is tied to the fur trade. Despite the French term, Métis which means “mixed,” being Métis is more than biology and ancestry. Being Métis means sharing a specific geography, history, culture, and nationhood.

European explorers traded metal pots, tools, weapons, and beads for furs with Indigenous peoples who had been living on Turtle Island (North America) since time immemorial. As the fur trade expanded, the settlers moved further inland and intermarriages became common particularly among French settlers who were officially encouraged by the North West Company (NWC) to marry Indigenous women and foster relationships with Indigenous communities (especially Anishinaabe/Ojibwe and Nêhiyaw/Cree). (British settlers also intermarried but the Hudson’s Bay Company officially discouraged this; their children were encouraged to assimilate into British culture.) Children from such intermarriages grew in numbers in the Great Lakes region; some scholars call them “proto-metis” to distinguish from the Métis who would emerge as a distinct people further inland.

Métis Culture and Nationhood

Nêhiyaw, Nakota (Assiniboine), and Anishinaabe (Saulteaux) lived in what would become Manitoba long before communities formed from intermarriages (above) arose there ‒ especially where the Red and Assiniboine Rivers converge (now called “The Forks” in Winnipeg). Later, in 1812, the first group of settlers arrived to establish the Red River Colony ‒ a colonizing project initiated by Thomas Douglas, the fifth Earl of Selkirk.

These communities had begun to think of themselves as a distinct people – different from their Indigenous and European parent cultures but Indigenous nonetheless.  Blending aspects from their parent cultures and expressing them in unique ways, they birthed a distinct culture. The Métis were a Plains bison culture with bison hunt governance like the Nêhiyaw. They spoke Michif (Cree/Ojibwe verbs, French nouns) and Bungi (Cree/Ojibwe, Gaelic English). They became known for Red River carts, floral beadwork, their combination of Indigenous and European style clothing (including the sash/ceinture fléchée), fiddle and jig music, and their entrepreneurial spirit.

The Métis helped the Selkirk Settlers survive their first winters and avoid starvation by gifting them bison meat. Despite this, their governor, Miles Macdonell, issued the Pemmican Proclamation (1814) forbidding export of bison products (including pemmican/bison jerky, a key food source that Métis became known for producing) from the colony for a year. The Métis disregarded this foreign attempt to interfere with their livelihood and tensions between the two groups continued until they erupted into the Battle of Seven Oaks (1816) – a decisive Métis victory. The Métis carried their infinity flag into this battle and their victory song would become their national anthem. Others began recognizing the Métis as a distinct people.

The Métis were establishing their nation: they had a distinct land base, languages, attire, flag, national anthem, food, victory in battle, and were resisting foreign threats to their self-determination.

Confederation of Manitoba

Another step in solidifying Métis nationhood was the political organizing triggered by the HBC’s sale of Rupert’s Land to the Dominion of Canada in 1869. Canada sent surveyors to divide the Red River region into plots to be sold to white farmers. Fearing this influx of white settlers and the theft of their land, the Métis (who had not been consulted) created political organizations seeking protection for their lands and rights. This resistance came to be known as the Red River Resistance. Louis Riel Jr. became president of the Provisional Government which drafted a Bill of Rights and successfully negotiated with Ottawa for the confederation of the Province of Manitoba. Sections 31 and 32 of the Manitoba Act (1870) safeguarded Métis land (and protected established white farmers in the region); the former reserved 1.4 million acres for the Métis in the province. The Métis had legally secured rights to a land base, the homeland of the Métis Nation, and protected the future of their people.

However, after the Act was passed, Prime Minister John A. Macdonald sent the Red River Expeditionary Forces, a military group led by Colonel Wolseley, to Red River to ensure a peaceful transition from the Provisional Government to a Provincial Government. Instead, they beat Métis men, raped Métis women, prevented participation in our first election, and murdered a few Métis people. This continued with Colonel Wolseley’s and Macdonald’s knowledge for two years before they were stopped. By this time, the damage was done and many Métis had fled the province.

Dispossession and Resistance

Many Métis also left Manitoba due to the corruption of the scrip system – the lottery system that was supposed to distribute the 1.4 million acres promised to the Métis. Significant delays, mismanagement, and fraud meant that most Métis lost their land; many sold for a fraction of its worth because they saw the corruption of the system and the settlers being given land reserved for the Métis. White land speculators and bankers became known as “scrip millionaires,” while Métis became landless and increasingly destitute with few options given the dwindling bison.

Macdonald bribed Riel to leave Canada under voluntary exile after the Manitoba Act was passed. English Canada hated Riel for allowing the execution of one of their own, Thomas Scott, during the Red River Resistance. Hoping to avoid persecution for his people, Riel accepted the money and shared it with his family.

Many dispossessed Métis moved to places like St. Laurent and Batoche (in what would become Saskatchewan) hoping to re-establish a Métis homeland and continue their way of life. With increasing numbers of white settlers arriving in the region, the Métis would again politically organize themselves in the hopes of negotiating with the government of Canada and securing their rights. Local Métis leader, Gabriel Dumont, persuaded Riel to return to Canada to help. The railroad had been built up to this region and soldiers were sent to prevent the Métis from confederating another province. The series of battles that ensued came to be known as the Northwest Resistance (1885). The only decisive victory for Canada was the final battle, the Battle of Batoche. The fallout would nearly destroy the Métis Nation.

Forgotten Years, Forgotten People

Again, the Métis were punished for trying to secure their rights; the dark period of oppression that followed came to be known as the “Forgotten Years.” Riel was hung, as were eight Nêhiyaw warriors, and influential Plains Chiefs Big Bear and Poundmaker were imprisoned and died as a result. The Métis were leaderless, landless, and destitute and the bison had nearly become extinct. There was an increase in racism and it became dangerous to be Métis; many Métis fled the region and hid their Indigenous identity, trying to pass as white to escape oppression. Métis became known as the Road Allowance People because the only place left for us to live was on Crown land designated for future roads, the railway, buildings. Every time the construction crew came, the Métis had to move their tents; cohesion as a community became nearly impossible. Many Métis were just trying to survive; during this time, Métis identity went underground and it was difficult to pass on language, culture, and traditions.

Ottawa also punished any First Nations they suspected had helped the Métis during the resistance by cutting their rations even though many were already starving due to broken treaty promises. There was an increase in North-West Mounted Police and Indian Agents enforcing amendments to the Indian Act which banned ceremonies and restricted status Indians to their reserves via the pass system. It was also in the years after 1885 that the residential and day school system would indoctrinate thousands of Indigenous children further separating us from our cultures.

Re-Birth, Rights, and Self-Determination

With the efforts of Indigenous veterans demanding better treatment, First Nations in BC demanding treaties, and the American Indian Movement highlighting these and other issues, the re-birth of Indigenous political organizing and cultural pride was in full swing by the 1960s. Métis provincial and national organizations arose demanding Canada recognize the Métis as Indigenous people with rights. With the help of Harry Daniels and others, this happened in 1982 when the Constitution was repatriated and section 35 identified the Aboriginal Peoples of Canada as First Nations, Métis, and Inuit with Aboriginal and treaty rights that must be honoured.

Recent court victories are bringing hope to the Métis Nation. In 2003, in Powley v. Canada, the Supreme Court of Canada recognized section 35 hunting rights in Sault Ste. Marie, ON. In MMF v. Canada (2013), the Supreme Court of Canada declared that the federal government failed in its constitutional duty when distributing the 1.4 million acres promised to the Métis in the Manitoba Act. In Daniels v. Canada (2016), the Supreme Court of Canada declared that Métis (and non-status Indians) must be considered “Indians” in section 91(24) of the Constitution and thereby fall under federal jurisdiction. These cases did not include remedial action but they open the doors for Métis rights and land claims.

Today, the Métis Nation is strong and working tirelessly toward self-determination to ensure a good future for our people.

Métis People of Canada – References

Augustus, Camie. 2008. “Métis Scrip.” Our Legacy. University of Saskatchewan Archives. Accessed April 4, 2012.
http://scaa.sk.ca/ourlegacy/exhibit_scrip.

Barkwell, Lawrence, Leah Dorion, and Darren Prefontaine, eds. 2001. Métis Legacy: A Métis Historiography and Annotated Bibliography. Winnipeg: Pemmican Publications.

Barkwell, Lawrence, Leah Dorion, and Audreen Hourie, eds. 2006. Métis Legacy II: Michif Culture, Heritage and Folkways. Winnipeg: Pemmican Publications.

Chartrand, Paul, and John Giokas. 2002. Who Are the Métis? A Review of the Law and Policy. In Who Are Canadas Aboriginal Peoples? Recognition, Definition, and Jurisdiction, edited by Paul Chartrand, 268-304. Saskatoon: Purich Publishing.

Daniels v. Canada. 2013. Federal Court (decision). January 8. Accessed April 9, 2013. http://bcmetis.com/wp-content/uploads/Daniels-Decision-January-2013.pdf

Fiola, Chantal. 2015. Métis Ancestry and Anishinaabe Spirituality. Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press.

Milne, Brad. 1995. “The Historiography of Métis Land Dispersal, 1870-1890.” Manitoba History, no. 30: 30-41.

MMF (Manitoba Métis Federation) v Canada (Attorney General). 2013. Judgments of the Supreme Court of Canada. Accessed April 18, 2013. http://scc.lexum.org/decisia-scc-csc/scc-csc/scc-csc/en/item/12888/index.do.

Murray, Jeffrey S. 1993. Métis Scrip Records – Foundation for a New Beginning. The Archivist 20(1): 12-14.

Peterson, Jacqueline, and Jennifer S. H. Brown, eds. 1985. The New Peoples: Being and Becoming Métis in North America. Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press.

Discussion; passing the talking stick

Closing common to all gatherings

Gathering Theme: Indigenous Spiritualities

GATHERING THEME

Indigenous Spiritualities

capture

1. Opening for all gatherings

2. Introduction of the theme by Facilitator

Indigenous Spiritualities

The Circle of Life

“You have noticed that everything an Indigenous person does is in a circle, and that is because the Power of the World always works in circles, and everything tries to be round. In the old days, when we were a strong and happy people, all our power came to us from the sacred hoop of the nation and so long as the hoop was unbroken, the people flourished.”

Today we will focus on Indigenous Spiritualities, which includes both sacred ceremonies and sacred items. It should be noted that the various spiritual beliefs and sacred items and ceremonies vary according to different tribal groups across Canada. We have selectively chosen some to reflect the depth of indigenous spiritualities.

“The flowering tree was the living centre of the hoop, and the circle of the four quarters nourished it. The East gave peace and light, the South gave warmth, The West gave rain and the North, with its cold and mighty wind gave strength and endurance. This knowledge came to us from the outer world with our religion. Everything the Power of the World does is done in a circle. The sky is round and I have heard the earth is round like a ball and so are the stars. The Wind, in its greatest power whirls. Birds make their nests in circles, for theirs is the same religion as ours. The sun comes forth and goes down again in a circle. The moon does the same and both are round. Even the seasons form a great circle in their changing and always come back again to where they were. The life of man is a circle from childhood to childhood and so it is in everything where power moves. Our Teepees were round like the nests of birds and these were always set in a circle, the nation ‘s hoop, a nest of many nests where the Great Spirit meant for us to hatch our children. “

Traditions

Native spiritual life is founded on a belief in the fundamental inter-connectedness of all natural things, all forms of life with primary importance being attached to Mother Earth.

Ceremonies

Ceremonies are the primary vehicles of religious expression. A ceremonial leader or Elder assures authenticity and integrity of religious observances. Elders may be either men or women. Their most distinguishing characteristic is wisdom which relates directly to experience and age. There are exceptions. Elders need not be “old”. Sometimes the spirit of the Great Creator chooses to imbue a young native.

Pipes

Pipes are used during both private and group ceremonies, the prayer itself being wafted through the smoke of the burning plant material. Pipes are of no set length. Some stems may or may not be decorated with beads or leather. Bowls may be of wood, soapstone, inlaid or carved in the form of various totemic power animals (an eagle with folded wings) or another sacred animal.

The pipe is never a “personal possession”. It belongs to the community. While every native has the right to hold the pipe, in practice, the privilege must be earned in some religious way.

Pipe Ceremony

Pipe ceremonies constitute the primary group gatherings over which Elders preside. Participants gather in a circle. A braid of sweetgrass (one of four sacred plants) is lit and burnt as an incense to purify worshippers, before the pipe is lit. Burning sweetgrass also symbolizes unity, the coming together of many hearts and minds as one person.

The Elder strikes a match, puts it to the end of the sweetgrass braid and fans the smouldering grass with an eagle’s feather. The Elder then goes from person to person in the circle where the smoke is drawn four times by hand gestures toward the head and down the body.

The Elder then places tobacco in the pipe and offers it in the four sacred directions of the compass. Spirits will be asked for assistance in the main prayer, which may be specifically for one individual, a participant in the circle or for someone far away or someone who has passed over. The pipe, passed from person to person in the circle, might be offered to all creation, to those invisible spirit helpers who are always there to guide humanity.

Sweat Lodges

Used mainly for communal prayer purposes, the Sweat Lodge may also provide necessary ceremonial settings for spiritual healing, purification, as well as fasting. Most fasts require a sweat ceremony before and after the event.

Lodge construction varies from tribe to tribe. Generally, it is an igloo-shaped structure about five feet high, built from bent willow branches tied together with twine. The structure is then encased in blankets to preclude all light. A maximum of eight participants gather in the dark.

In the centre, there is a holy, consecrated virginal section of ground (untrampled by feet and untouched by waste material) blessed by an Elder with tobacco and sweetgrass. There, red hot stones heated in a fire outside the lodge are brought in and doused with water. A doorkeeper on the outside opens the lodge door four times, contributing four additional hot rocks (representing the four sacred directions) to the centre. A prepared pipe is also brought in.

Drums

Drums represent the heartbeat of the nation, the pulse of the universe. Different sizes are used depending on ceremonial purposes. Drums are sacred objects. Each drum has a keeper to ensure no-one approaches it under the influence of alcohol or drugs. During ceremonies, no one may reach across it or place extraneous objects on it.

Herbs / Incense

Sweetgrass, sage, cedar and tobacco encompass the four sacred plants. Burning these is a sign of deep spirituality in Native practices. Cedar and sage are burned to drive out negative forces when prayer is offered. Sweetgrass, which signifies kindness, is burned to invite good spirits to enter. Participants also use these purification rituals to smudge regalia, drums and other articles before taking part in a pow-wow.

Medicine Pouches

Prescribed by an Elder, plant material can also be worn in a medicine pouch by a person seeking the mercy and protection of the spirits of the Four Directions. Elders caution Natives not to conceal any other substances in their pouches. To do so would make a mockery of their beliefs.

Once the Medicine Bundle has been touched by someone other than its designated guardian, it can no longer be used in its uncleansed condition. The custodian must again perform purification rites to restore the Bundle’s sacredness. Male law enforcement officers may conduct a search of someone wearing these without incident if they ask the wearer to open the bundle. If the person is genuine, then the request will be granted. The spirituality of the bundle is only violated if it is touched or opened without the carrier’s permission

Ceremonial Rituals

Pow-wow

Some say the name is derived from the Algonkian word meaning “to dream”. Pow-wow an ancient tradition among aboriginal peoples, is a time for celebrating and socializing after religious ceremonies. In some cultures, the pow-wow itself was a religious event, when families held naming and honouring ceremonies.

Giveaway

For instance, a family celebrating a member’s formal entry into the dance circle, or wishing to commemorate the death of a loved one, often hosts a giveaway during a pow-wow. This tradition embodies the value of sharing with others.

Today’s pow-wow is more of a social event, although honour ceremonies and other religious observances remain important parts of the celebration. Elders say that coming together in dancing, feasting and having fun is an important unifying and healing experience which brings together many nations in a celebration of life.

Eagle Staff

The Eagle Staff is an important symbol to many North American tribes. The eagle represents the Thunderbird spirits of the supernatural world who care for the inhabitants of our physical world. Qualities such as farsightedness, strength, speed, beauty and kindness are attributed to the eagle, which never kills wantonly, only to feed itself and its family. The Eagle Staff symbolizes reverence for the Creator and all of life

Invocation

Any significant event is initiated with words of prayer by a respected Elder. Traditionally, First Nations never had “priests” as such but rather spiritual leaders. They are often offered tobacco with a request for prayer indicating respect and honour for that person and the higher power.

These are just a few of the sacred rituals and objects which we hope will inspire respect for Indigenous spirituality.

3.    Talking Circle

4.    Determination of theme for next meeting and reader

5.    Closing for all gatherings

Gathering Theme: Intergenerational Trauma

GATHERING THEME

Intergenerational Trauma

“Coming for all of the children for over 120 years”  

1. Opening for all gatherings.

2. Introduction of the theme by Facilitator

The accumulation of traumatic experiences endured by residential school survivors as well as many others in the Indigenous communities have been called “soul wounds.” It is impossible in 10 or 15 minutes to describe adequately all these wounds. We invite you to visit the ‘resources” section of our website, where you can access and reflect upon the 16 page document entitled: “The soul wounds of the Anishinabeh people; the psychological and intergenerational impacts of the Indian Residential school,” prepared by the Union of Ontario Indians.     

Yellow Horse Brave Heart (1999), the first to apply the term historic trauma to Indigenous people, describes it as follows:

With the break-up of the extended family, many indigenous women found they had no role models to teach them parenting skills. As many Native people were raised in boarding schools, the traditional roles and ways of parenting by both Native men and women were lost. The attitudes and norms, which then sprang up in parenting styles, such as harsh physical punishment, emotional abandonment, lack of parental involvement, and insensitivity to children’s needs added to imbalance in the family. As generations continued with these ways of parenting, the trauma was passed down until many believe it has become a cycle of despair and desperation (1999:70).

Current conditions such as the disproportionate apprehension of Aboriginal children by child-welfare agencies and the disproportionate imprisonment and victimization of Aboriginal people can be explained in part as a result or legacy of the way that Aboriginal children were treated in residential schools and were denied an environment of positive parenting, worthy community leaders, and a positive sense of identity and self-worth. When current traumas such as racism and discrimination are added, they perpetuate colonialism. This interaction of historic trauma and current traumas is sometimes called colonial trauma response.

So the impacts of the legacy of residential schools have not ended with those who attended the schools. They affected the Survivors’ partners, their children, their grandchildren, their extended families, and their communities. Children who were abused in the schools sometimes went on to abuse others. Many students who spoke to the Commission said they developed addictions as a means of coping. Students who were treated and punished like prisoners in the schools often graduated to real prisons. For many, the path from residential school to prison was a short one.

Children exposed to strict and regimented discipline in the schools sometimes found it difficult to become loving parents. Genine Paul-Dimitracopoulos’s mother was placed in the Shubenacadie residential school in Nova Scotia at a very early age. She told the Commission that knowing this, and what the school was like, helped her understand “how we grew up because my mom never really showed us love when we were kids coming up. She, when I was hurt or cried, she was never there to console you or to hug you. If I hurt myself she would never give me a hug and tell me it would be okay. I didn’t understand why.” Alma Scott of Winnipeg told the Commission that as “a direct result of those residential schools because I was a dysfunctional mother.… I spent over twenty years of my life stuck in a bottle in an addiction where I didn’t want to feel any emotions so I numbed out with drugs and with alcohol…. That’s how I raised my children, that’s what my children saw, and that’s what I saw.”

In the words of the Commission, genuine reconciliation will not be possible until the complex legacy of the schools is understood, acknowledged, and addressed. Parliament and the Supreme Court have recognized that the legacy of residential schools should be considered when sentencing Aboriginal offenders. Although these have been important measures, they have not been sufficient to address the grossly disproportionate imprisonment of Aboriginal people, which continues to grow, in part because of a lack of adequate funding and support for culturally appropriate alternatives to imprisonment. Honouring the Truth, pp. 135-136

Transmission of trauma always takes place in a social environment, which is assumed to have a major impact on children. It is true that Aboriginal children of today did not witness the death, terror and suffering of their ancestors. However, it is also true that many of them witnessed rampant domestic abuse, alcoholism and drug addiction of their parents who witnessed the lack of self-esteem and unresolved grief of their parents. According to Kellermann (2000), traumatized parents influence their children not only through what they do to them, in terms of actual child-rearing behaviour, but also through inadequate role modelling. As pointed out by Bandura (1977), children learn things vicariously by observing and imitating their parents. Children of traumatized parents may be assumed to have taken upon themselves some of the behaviours and emotional states of their parents. This matrix of unhealthy family relations frames the process of memory transmission and locates this social phenomenon on an individual level, thus affecting every person in Aboriginal communities and beyond. This is how universal trauma enters the lives of individuals. Chapter 3, page 76

To recapitulate: trauma transmission: the traumatic memories are passed to next generations through different channels, including biological (in hereditary predispositions to PTSD), cultural (through story-telling, culturally sanctioned behaviours), social (through inadequate parenting, lateral violence, acting out of abuse), and psychological (through memory processes) channels. The complexity of the transmission process, as well as the complexity of the “image of loss” that is being passed on, must be recognized in order to fully understand why unresolved grief and the residue of despair are still present in the Aboriginal people’s collective psyche. Ch. 3 p. 76

However, this healing process is long and tedious. Fragmented souls do not heal in a year. There is no quick, efficient band-aid-like remedy to correct extensive damages that have been perpetuated for so many years and, in the instance of Aboriginal people, generation after generation. After centuries of depersonalization, isolation from a sound culture and social milieu, with the group identity removed, all previous ideals and beliefs destroyed or stolen and being objects of ruthless exploitation, Aboriginal people became extremely vulnerable and almost naked in the face of their powerful oppressors. Being treated with utmost contempt and derision and being brutally stripped of every reminder of their previous cultural identity and their predictable social environment, they lost their strength as a people and as individuals. The almost complete destruction of their social context and their social identity left them unbearably anxious, tremendously uncertain and miserably subject to a new and uncertain world.

One must always remember that, in past centuries of mortal terror, the Aboriginal people’s intra-social structure was shattered.  Page 79

The trauma of residential schools was not the only indignity suffered by Indigenous people in Canada. They also endured the loss of territory, language, culture and heritage, children and far too many women and men to murder and suicide. Their Indigenous  governments and economies were disrupted, their spirituality distained. The intergenerational trauma continues. Adoptions outside the culture, pervasive foster care, often without concern for the cultures, and inordinate rates of incarceration perpetuate the trauma. Government policies, accepted by Canadians, have allowed poverty, poor educational opportunities, and poor health, polluted water and inadequate housing to dominate in many of their communities. The low self esteem that resulted has contributed to alcoholism, drug use and suicide.

But the story is not all doom and gloom. The commission affirms: The Survivors are extraordinary people; If theirs is a story of pain, loneliness away from their families, suffering and abuse, it is also a story of extraordinary courage, resilience and endurance. It is they who have not allowed us “to kill the Indian in the child” to quote the words recalled by The Prime Minister in his formal apology. Over 6,750 people gave recorded statements to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. They are the ones who have demanded that we face our history. Truth about our history comes before reconciliation.  If we listen, we will hear that they are generous in their forgiving, they are wise in their judgements, they are hopeful in the future.

3.    Talking Circle

4.    Determination of theme for next meeting and reader

5.    Closing for all gatherings

 

Major sources for this theme:

Historic trauma and aboriginal healing,  prepared for the aboriginal healing foundation, by Cynthia c. Wesley-Esquimaux, Ph.D., Magdalena Smolewski, Ph.D.

Aboriginal peoples and historic trauma: the processes of intergenerational transmission, by William Aguiar and Regine Halseth, National Collaborating Centre for Aboriginal Health

Reconciliation: a spiritual process, by Maggie Hodgson

Intervention to address intergenerational trauma: overcoming, resisting and preventing structural violence, University of Calgary

Andrew Woolford, This Benevolent Experiment, Indigenous boarding schools, genocide and redress in Canada and the United States.  University of Manitoba Press, 2015.

 

Meaning of Land for Indigenous Peoples

Meaning of Land for Indigenous peoples

Why do Indigenous people stay on reserves when there is often water that has to be boiled, mold in the houses, few educational opportunities and no jobs? For the sake of the children, why don’t they leave and come to the city?  This is a real question posed by a non-Indigenous person. The answers are somewhat complex.

First, the reserves are home. Home is a very important reality for most people. Most refugees, given a choice would not want to come to Canada. It is so far from their beloved homes.  In Canada, at the holiday seasons people get in their cars or onto planes to go back home, to the farm, to the reserves, to their home cities.

The reserve communities provide a constant experience of belonging. That is why those who come to the city often experience loneliness and a real sense of loss. Those who come to universities or colleges take longer to complete their studies as family responsibilities and financial issues often draw them back to their home communities during their studies.  Universities recognize that Indigenous students face additional difficulties and try to ensure student success with special programming and academic assistance, and physical meeting places such as Indigenous learning centres on campuses. On the other hand, many Indigenous people who embrace higher education see it as “the new buffalo,” with its promise of economic benefits.

Nor can we discount the significant role that racism plays in making those who come to the city feel lonely, unhappy and unwelcome.  No matter how many troubles there might be on some reserves, they are, because of this sense of belonging, still perceived as a more comfortable place than the cities. Finally those who do come risk losing some benefits such as housing and at times are reluctant to lose connections and change relationships with family and friends. 

Even more important, Indigenous people see the land itself in ways non-Indigenous people often do not understand:  An Indigenous person’s sense of self is not separate from the land.  The interconnectedness with the land and the natural world is a lived experience.   Indigenous persons have a hard time knowing themselves and being themselves without this relationship to their homeland.   The vital knowledge of generations has taught them how to live with nature and be in balance and harmony with the natural world. It is compelling to see how often Indigenous art shows an interconnectedness between animals and people and the land.  Just one example: many Indigenous masks are created in the likeness of an animal. Some believe that each clan was descended from a different animal.

So coming to the city can be disorienting, although the intensity of this obviously varies between individuals. The land is sacred. When several Indigenous groups in B.C. were offered over a billion dollars for permission to develop oil projects, they turned it down –because they judged the project would destroy Mother Earth, and they could not allow that to happen. There is a relationship to Mother Earth that is sacred, nourishing and that carries responsibilities. “We do not own Mother Earth to give it away; we must respect it. We are part of it, it is part of us,” they would say.

Related to this is the fact that not all people want to live our urban live style.  For many Indigenous peoples, there is no ‘good life’ that does not include a daily, intimate relationship with land and nature.  Of course Indigenous people want access to some of the benefits of a middle-class lifestyle such as education, health care, housing and quality of life which are the most important drivers of migration, even from small town and villages. But it would be a mistake to go from there to the conclusion that we all want these things in the same way.

Another key factor relates to entering into the treaties in the 1870’s. Winnipeg is on Treaty # 1 land, signed in 1871 at Lower Fort Garry. We are located on the original lands of the Anishinaabeg, Cree, Oji-Cree, Dakota, and Dene peoples, and on the homeland of the Métis Nation. We are all treaty people and it is up to both parties to live by the responsibilities agreed to in the Treaties. In fact, as Jamie Wilson, then Treaty Commissioner for Manitoba pointed out, even the right of non-Indigenous peoples in Manitoba to own land and buy a house in Winnipeg is possible because of Treaty 1. Aimée Craft’s book, “Breathing Life into the Stone Fort Treaty: An Anishinaabe Understanding of Treaty One” brings a unique approach to the history of this treaty.  

Reserves were established by the treaties, and in principle the treaties provided for Indigenous people to select the areas of land they wanted.  They looked for land linked to their traditional fishing, burial and ceremonial customs at the same time ensuring they had steady access to wood, water, shelter and existing transport routes. However, their reserve lands were often badly or not at all surveyed and the federal government in some cases removed people from their original reserve in order to make way for land speculation. That is the story of Peguis Reserve.  This gave rise to the current issues of treaty land entitlement and land claims.  In brief, after treaties were negotiated, the Crown became the only significant interpreter of their terms. Then, under the aegis of the Indian Act, an Act never part of any treaty and never consented to by Indigenous people, the Crown launched a century or more of assimilation. Finally, even after treaties were signed,  “Aboriginal people in Canada did not view the land and its resources as something they owned, so they did not see the treaties as a transfer of ownership. Rather, they saw the treaties as providing a basis upon which the use of the land and its resources could be shared.”

Land is important in two respects. First, traditional lands are the ‘place’ of the nation and are inseparable from the people, their culture, and their identity as a nation. Second, land and resources, as well as traditional knowledge, are the foundations upon which Indigenous people intend to rebuild the economies of their nations and so improve the socio-economic circumstance of their people – individuals, families, communities and nations. Capturing this Fergus MacKay says the following when discussing the World Bank’s approach to Indigenous people: “For Indigenous peoples, secure and effective collective property rights are fundamental to their economic and social development, to their physical and cultural integrity, and to their livelihoods and sustenance.” (MacKay 2004, 17).

Twenty-nine comprehensive land claim and/or self-government agreements, covering over 40 percent of Canada’s land mass, have been ratified and brought into effect since the announcement of the Government of Canada’s Comprehensive Land claims Policy in 1973 and the establishment of the British Columbia Treaty Process (1992). These agreements change the relationship between Aboriginal signatories, the federal government and the provincial / territorial governments concerned. According to Comprehensive Land Claims Agreements and Self-Government Agreements, Aboriginal signatories constitute governments in their own right and, as a result, the Parties to the agreements form groundbreaking government-to-government relationships that transform how they relate to and collaborate with one another.

For a simple, straight-forward grasp of the history of Indigenous people and their relationship to land, we encourage you to take part in what is called a “Blanket Exercise.” These are one hour stories on the history of Indigenous peoples since the arrival of settlers. Our website will be posting opportunities for individuals to take part in Blanket Exercises.

The reserve system was not created by Indigenous peoples, It was never intended to provide an equal quality of life. Forced relocation has not been uncommon. In 2016 the Canadian government apologized and will provide millions in compensation for the forced relocation of the Sayisi Dene First Nation 60 years ago in northern Manitoba. “Without proper consultation, without explanation and without adequate planning, the federal government took your people from the land and the waters that sustained you,” Carolyn Bennett, Indigenous and Northern Affairs Minister said in prepared remarks delivered in Tadoule Lake. The pernicious Indian Act perpetuates principles making Indigenous people wards of the state which affects many aspect of peoples’ lives.

Attachment to home and reserve community has been central to Indigenous life in Canada.  It has had a great deal to do not only with family but with resilience and resistance to the attempts, both direct and indirect, to destroy so many aspects of Indigenous life.

Resources:  Google: “General briefing Note on Canada’s Self-government and Comprehensive Claims Policies and the Status of Negotiations.”

Aimée Craft  “Breathing Life into the Stone Fort Treaty: An Anishinabe Understanding of Treaty One” Purich Publishing Co. UBC Press, 2013.

Google: Kairos blanket exercises

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